I finally watched a video that was sent to me last month. This took place at a lodge where I frequently observed Rushegura gorilla family as well. The footage doesn’t surprise me since I have seen how comfortable the habituated gorillas are with tourists but it appears to be getting worse and I am very concerned for the remaining 780 mountain gorillas in the worldwide.
With more than 98.4% similar genetic makeup between ourselves and mountain gorillas, we share the same illnesses and diseases. Different environments can leave one or the other more susceptible to those viruses such as Influenza. Gorilla and human health at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park must be strictly monitored. At the moment I am finalizing export paperwork to work on the last component of my research, to send saliva (gorillas, tourists, staff) and feces (gorillas) from Kampala, Uganda to Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York City to see what viruses a sample size of gorillas and humans may be carrying. I am working with the Uganda Wildlife Authority www.ugandawildlife.org and Conservation Through Public Health www.ctph.org to reduce contact like shown in this video between gorillas and humans for the safety of everyone. We should not be encouraging or advertising close contact between humans and any great apes. It is simply dangerous physically, behaviorally, a public health hazard, and an enormous risk to gorilla health and conservation.
LESS contact and proximity to these magnificent animals will allow them MORE of a chance of surviving their IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Critically Endangered C1 status.
Read more about responsible ecotourism here: www.ecotourism.org